Many cities, big and small, are proud and quick to brag about their native sons and daughters. For a city the size of Danville we have a lot to be proud of, and plenty to brag about. Celebrities from the entertainment industry to Astronauts, we have much more than our share of famous people.
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Donald O’ Connor
At the age of 12 got his first break in the movies playing the little brother of Fred MacMurray and Bing Crosby in Sing You Sinners. He then starred in Francis the Talking mule. He also appeared with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds in Singin’ in the Rain.
He received his first big break with a starring role in Any Wednesday. He made his moviedebut in 1964 as Clyde Barrows brother Buck, in Bonnie and Clyde and received an Oscarnomination for it. He then starred in the French Connection which earned him his first Oscar. He won his second Oscar in The Unforgiven. His film career also included such hits as Hoosiers and The Poseidon Adventure.
Dick Van Dyke
This versatile performer has starred in the Broadway shows, The Boys Against the Girls, Bye-Bye Birdie and many movies through the years including his unforgettable performance as Bert the chimney sweep in Mary Poppins . In 1961 he starred in the Emmy award-winning TV comedy series The Dick Van Dyke Show with Mary Tyler Moore. Rob Petrie, Van Dyke’s television character, coincidentally, also was from Danville and the area was mentioned frequently in the show’s storyline. Dick is currently starring in the CBS show, Diagnosis Murder.
Jerry Van Dyke
Jerry got his first break in a TV series My Mother the Car in the mid 60s. He had parts in various movies and television shows and worked the night club circuit over the years. Then his biggest break came as he was cast as the character Luther Van Dam in the hit TV series Coach.
A self-taught pianist, Bobby Short has performed at the White House and Carnegie Hall and also played a command performance before the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Bobby is considered the world’s foremost interpreter of Cole Porter songs. He has played at the posh Cafe Carlyle in New York City for over 25 years. His blend of Jazz and Blues has been featured in cameo appearances in movies and television.
Other Famous Danville Area people.
Helen Morgan, a torch singer in the 40’s
James Wainwright, was a popular television performer in the 70s. Had a hit show called Jigsaw. Also nominated for a Oscar.
Alan Dysert, A Oakwood native, played on the ABC television soap All My Children, in the role of Sean Cudahy.
Angie Watson, another Oakwood native, starred in the ABC comedy Step By Step.
Joe Tanner, Astronaut, spent 11 days in space in 1994 aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. In 1997 he spent 14 hours walking in space in an effort to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, as a crew member of the space shuttle Discovery.
Darrin Fletcher, also from Oakwood,The All-Star catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Zeke Bratkowski, professional football Quarterback for the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears